Gov. DeSantis signs ‘Stop W.O.K.E. Act’ as legal challenge looms

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DeSantis says, as a parent, he's concerned about what Disney is trying to teach kids about sexuality, like 'pansexualism.'

Florida has become the latest state to ban “woke ideology” associated with critical race theory with legislation Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Friday.

The measure (HB 7), which is already being challenged in court over First Amendment concerns, would prohibit lessons and trainings which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

“We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country or to hate each other,” DeSantis said before signing the bill in Hialeah.

The “Stop W.O.K.E.” name used by DeSantis, short for “Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees,” references the acknowledgement of injustices in American society in a manner often touted by the left but vilified by the right. Formally, lawmakers called the measure the Individual Freedom bill.

Republicans nationwide have made critical race theory an election focal point in the culture war. While DeSantis said Florida was at the “cutting edge” of anti-woke law, multiple states, including Texas, have already passed laws banning critical race theory or associated lessons.

The theory, which is taught in law schools but that DeSantis argued is also an “overall worldview,” posits that racial disparities have a continual influence on institutional structures.

In Florida, DeSantis is on the ballot in November, along with candidates for all state House and Senate offices.

Hialeah Republican Sen. Manny Díaz, who DeSantis recommended this week to be Florida’s next Education Commissioner, carried the bill to a 24-15 vote in the Senate last month. Miami Springs Republican Rep. Bryan Ávila, a possible candidate for Díaz’s Senate seat, sponsored the bill to a 74-41 vote in the House the month prior.

While the bill doesn’t target critical race theory by name, DeSantis said the bill would prevent “pernicious ideologies” like the principles of critical race theory from being taught in K-12 schools. Critical race theory should stay in law schools where it is traditionally studied, he continued.

Critics, mainly Democrats, have argued the legislation amounts to censoring teachers and businesses that are trying to stamp out intolerance, hate and ignorance. They also contend it will chill the speech of educators teaching about African American history, LGBTQ history and more.

Rep. Ramon Alexander, a Tallahassee Democrat who is expected to lead the House Democratic Caucus next legislative term, called Friday a sad day in Florida’s history.

“I truly believe this legislation furthers systematic racism as an attempt to erase and whitewash American history. It’s a delusional culture war GOP issue. And it dismantles the progress that has been made to create diversity and inclusion training in the workplace, and to teach our kids history,” Alexander said in a prepared statement.

“This sets us back in progress made that will continue to divide us rather than bringing unity and teaching the full history of the United States of America.”

The Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement are still part of the history curriculum, the Governor noted.

“We teach all of that because it’s real history and it’s important,” DeSantis said. “But what we will not do is let people distort history to try to serve their current ideological goals.”

The bill signing also followed the Florida Department of Education’s release this week of several examples from rejected mathematics textbooks considered “impermissible” by the Department after receiving a mass of requests in response to the agency’s significant cut of approved instructional material. The department provided examples feature math problems that contain “prohibited topics,” like social-emotional learning and references to studies that feature topics like race and racism.

DeSantis also lambasted Disney — as he has since the entertainment giant condemned Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — for an “intentional agenda to inject sexuality” into programming for young children. The Governor, the father to three children 5 and younger, pointed to leaked videos from a Walt Disney Company executive meeting discussing how cast members should address LGBTQ issues with visitors.

“As a parent, I was very shaken by hearing that, because it’s one thing to talk about legislation … but when you’re talking about these acknowledgments and really the glee that these people had in these videos that they were going to get this stuff and they were talking about concepts like pansexualism, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t know what that means, but I know I don’t want my 5-year-old daughter to be taught it,'” DeSantis said.

The Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo, a prominent voice opposing critical race theory, issued a warning to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and called the company’s “Reimagine Tomorrow” inclusionary program now illegal. However, the anti-woke bill isn’t slated to take effect till July 1.

“We’re going to give you the weekend to make some adjustments to immediately abolish this program, because on Monday, if this is still part of Disney’s Human Resources program, there will be consequences,” Rufo said.

Soon after DeSantis signed the legislation, lawyers at Sheppard, White, Kachergus, DeMaggio & Wilkison filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of parents and teachers who argue the law violates the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment requires us to decide these issues through open and free debate, not by the fiat of Florida’s Governor and Legislature through constitutionally oppressive legislation that prohibits discussion of these matters,” attorneys Jesse Wilkison and Matthew Kachergus said in a statement. “This bill grossly infringes on the First Amendment’s fundamental guarantees of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and students’ right to access information regarding these topics.”

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, criticized DeSantis and Republican lawmakers for the bill’s passage last month.

“This bill is a vile attempt to erase our country’s history, censor businesses and schools, and whitewash history. It’s unconstitutional and racist,” Fried said. “This is just more state-sanctioned hatred and censorship coming from Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the Legislature.”

Immediately after signing the anti-woke bill, DeSantis signed a pair of bills passed Thursday removing special cases for Disney in Florida law.

He also announced he earlier signed the state’s new congressional district maps, which the Legislature similarly passed Thursday. Democrats and voting rights advocates contend the new district boundaries are a political gerrymander and will reduce Black representation in Congress. Rep. Kamia Brown, an Ocoee Democrat who is expected to lead the Legislative Black Caucus next term, linked all four bills together in a statement targeting the Individual Freedom bill.

“With the Governor choosing to sign this bill this week, two things are very clear to me,” Brown said. “The first is that the motivation behind both his map and this anti-woke bill is racially charged and meant to silence Black voices as well as erase the history and legacy of Black people. The second is to cause a distraction to Floridians’ reactions to his politically motivated retaliation against Disney that will fall on the backs of local counties, the tourism industry, and Central Florida taxpayers.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


41 comments

  • Tom

    April 22, 2022 at 5:05 pm

    “This bill grossly infringes on the First Amendment’s fundamental guarantees of academic freedom, freedom of expression, and students’ right to access information regarding these topics.”

    If they truly believe this, they should have no problem with teachers sharing their religion in the classroom under the guise of academic freedom and freedom of expression! To do otherwise simply points out the hypocrisy of their position!

    • Raheim

      April 22, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      Wow. So DeSantis supporters really are the bottom rung of Trump voters huh?

      • Impeach Biden

        April 23, 2022 at 8:36 am

        Doesn’t speak highly for those of you that voted for Biden and crew and the list is long of others like AOC, Bush, Talib, Jayapal, Omar, Hirono, Blumenthal, Warren, Waters…………. Should I go on?

        • Do it now

          April 23, 2022 at 3:35 pm

          “Should I go on”

          Yes you should. So I can laugh at how backwards you are even more lol

        • Rob

          April 25, 2022 at 11:55 am

          yes, go on…..straight to hell!

    • Tom

      April 23, 2022 at 10:21 pm

      Wrong Tom not the Legend.

    • All the time

      April 25, 2022 at 5:09 am

      Now Tom if there’s one thing we all expect you to do it’s share your faith.

      And not believe you

    • Tony

      April 26, 2022 at 11:39 am

      I see another lawsuit coming as a result of another ridiculous law.

  • Don’t Look Up

    April 22, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    If you’re not “woke” …… you must be asleep. Sounds like today’s Republican Party is asleep and dreaming of a magical place called 1940’s America. Wake up voters!

    • Anthony

      April 25, 2022 at 6:55 pm

      You mean 1840’s America.

  • You did good

    April 22, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    He was a bad navy lawyer who got out Because he could not move up now he’s going to transfer disneys debt bomb unto you Florida. Great job!

    • Impeach Biden

      April 23, 2022 at 5:43 am

      Again. Where is the proof of his Navy record.. I’m guessing Facebook zombie BS. Certainly a fellow office that worked with or for him would support this BS. Nope, not a word.

      • Gravy seal 6

        April 23, 2022 at 3:37 pm

        He was not strong enough to go Into to combat lol

  • Comment

    April 22, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    Woke sounds like a sleeper cell f with Vietnam saying we are all criminals

  • Orlando Indie

    April 22, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    Welcome to Russia Florida where books get banned and segregation and racism are legally enshrined into law. The gop is becoming more socialist by the day, more fascist by the hour, and clearly have decided democracy no longer works so they’ll now just rather live in an autocracy.

    Is turning America into nazi Germany what republicans meant when they promised to make America great again? Seems that’s the case.

    • Impeach Biden

      April 23, 2022 at 8:31 am

      Again, where is the racism in Florida. Your drug popping, and male prostitute loving candidate almost won the election for Governor in 2018. Thank God he didn’t.

      • No

        April 23, 2022 at 3:38 pm

        “Where is the racism in Florida”

        With the poverty

        Everywhere

        Good thing california give you money lol

        • Former Floridian

          April 24, 2022 at 10:21 pm

          And surely that is why so many New Yorkers, Californians, and people from other blue states are flocking to Florida – because it’s such a badly run state, right? DeSantis has done a terrific job in Florida with COVID (same rate of cases and deaths as NY and CA, with no tyrannical mandates) and luring people from high-tax blue states. And Disney fleeced the state in 1969 and will now be subject to the same rules as Universal, Sea World, and every other attraction in the state. I thought liberals were in favor of taxing corporations and making them pay their fair share?

          • Not exactly

            April 25, 2022 at 5:11 am

            “ Because it’s such a badly run state right”

            You took the ones no one else wanted

      • Rob

        April 25, 2022 at 11:57 am

        The governors office.

    • Ashe

      April 23, 2022 at 4:30 pm

      — You can’t teach that certain races are inherently bad!
      — Fascist!!! Nazi!!!

      • Former Floridian

        April 24, 2022 at 10:11 pm

        I work at a university. There are LOTS of people here who teach CRT, and it is exactly what the people on the right say it is. Ibram X. Kendi said it himself: “The only solution to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination … the only solution to past discrimination is present discrimination … the only solution to present discrimination is future discrimination.” Kendi is one of the primary present-day spokespeople for CRT, and his meaning is crystal clear. CRT is about evening the score – nothing more, nothing less. The Florida bill is intended to stop the CRT indoctrination (which is exactly what they are trying to do) from being funded by our tax dollars and being shoved down our children’s throats. As I said in response to another post, you should not have to sit through a CRT struggle session in order to go to school or get a job.

  • Beth

    April 23, 2022 at 8:51 am

    DeSantis , a true racist sexist wanna be dictator trying to squash constitutional rights. Every one of his idiotic decisions will continue to hurt FL and Floridians,. He has not done one thing to address the real problems in this state. Just like his idol trump, he is incapable of honesty and forethought and too stupid to do anything but sow chaos. Anyone who wants to save our democracy needs to reject DeSantis and all his enablers in the FL legislature in November. . Time to end this sad chapter in history once and for all.

    • Ashe

      April 23, 2022 at 4:49 pm

      Yep, indoctrinating kids with far-leftist propaganda is a constitutional right for some (indoctrinating kids with far-right or any religious propaganda in schools is bad though, right? that can be forbidden, I hope).
      I guess every country where they don’t teach about certain races being inherently guilty and bad (and about sex) to little kids is a fascist dictatorship.

      By the way, when “democrats” pushed for no-sexual-education-at-all in public schools, they were dictator-wannabes as well, right? ’cause you ain’t a functional illiterate, double-standard-loving moron, right? 😀

      Yeah, yeah, the usual (and only) argument, if activists can’t push propaganda on 8 years olds, children will die and flowers will wither!!! And sexist nazis everywhere! (Nazi i.e. everybody who’s against the far-leftist thugs and their agendas.)

      • PeterH

        April 23, 2022 at 5:04 pm

        Can you point to a single instance where children have been indoctrinated…..or are you simply parroting the position of the Governor (whose children attend a private school in Tallahassee)?

        • Former Floridian

          April 24, 2022 at 10:16 pm

          Ever heard of Queering the Classroom – the practice where teachers go around the room asking first and second graders what their pronouns are and who they are attracted to? How about Drag Queen Story Hour? Surely you know about that? THAT is what the state of Florida is trying to prevent.

          • PeterH

            April 25, 2022 at 1:44 pm

            Former ….. do you have any hard evidence or are you simply doing research on fake YouTube videos?

        • Jason

          April 25, 2022 at 2:07 pm

          Peter – You need proof that CRT is in fact being taught in public schools – Here’s you proof. Care to defend or are you parroting positions of the far-left?

          “Public school districts in 15 states are teaching a book, Not My Idea, that tells readers that “whiteness” leads white people to make deals with the devil for “stolen land, stolen riches, and special favors.” White people get to “mess endlessly with the lives of your friends, neighbors, loved ones, and all fellow humans of color for the purpose of profit,” the book adds.”

          In Cupertino, California, an elementary school required third graders to rank themselves according to the “power and privilege” associated with their ethnicities.

          Schools in Buffalo, New York, taught students that “all white people” perpetuate “systemic racism” and had kindergarteners watch a video of dead black children, warning them about “racist police and state-sanctioned violence.”

          Arizona, the state’s education department sent out an “equity toolkit” to schools that claimed infants as young as 3 months old can start to show signs of racism and “remain strongly biased in favor of whiteness” by age 5.

          The National Education Association vowed to “share and publicize” information “already available on Critical Race Theory — what it is and what it is not” and fight back against legislation that would ban CRT from school curriculum.
          I bet you and the other’s on this tread bashing DeSanitis haven’t even read HB1557.

          You see when people ACTUALLY read the bill and learn of the age levels and common sense of the bill, they are in favor of it. In fact 51% of Democrats are in favor of the bill, once they actually read the bill.

          • PeterH

            April 25, 2022 at 2:44 pm

            I just read Not My Idea and I found absolutely nothing wrong with it. As stated, it’s age appropriate for children age 14+

            Audible version is easily found on YouTube. 45 pages.

            The book is anti white supremacy…… something that MUST be taught because what we’ve been teaching children for the past 400 years IS NOT WORKING.

        • Jason

          April 25, 2022 at 2:20 pm

          You should look no farther than Libs on Tik Tok. I can see, you’re probably a boomer.

          So, libs on Tik Tok is LITERALLY teachers filming themselves telling telling how they teach sex and gender identity to very young children.

          Check it out, might see why parents are fed up and speaking out. The only good COVID did was to bring the curriculum from school home for parents to really read what their kids are being taught.

          It’s a wake up time, DeSantis is correct and has strong backing, especially here in Florida.

          • PeterH

            April 25, 2022 at 3:01 pm

            I’m not on social media. Anyone can post as a ‘teacher’ or ‘liberal’ ….. it proves nothing.

  • Just a thought

    April 24, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    I inherited hetersexuall does this mean I have to be programmed for a other way.

  • Former Floridian

    April 24, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    I am an independent, but I have no problem with Gov. DeSantis is doing. I’ve been forced to attend trainings where I was told that all White people are racist, that the country has made no progress on racial issues since the 1960s, and that I should feel guilty and ashamed for being White (even though I’m a Jew!). People should not have to sit through a far-left struggle session just to hired into a job or attend school. I applaud the Governor for his actions.

    Oh, and before people start making snarky comments, I moved out of Florida for a job, not because I disliked the state. I would move back in a second if I could.

    • PeterH

      April 24, 2022 at 5:24 pm

      Why do you lie? You’re whole post is made up. There is not a social program ANYWHERE IN ANY BUSINESS that the lecturer would state or infer “that all white people are racist!”

      If what you say had ANY CREDIBILITY some attendees would have complained to CNN.

      • Former Floridian

        April 24, 2022 at 5:42 pm

        You don’t believe me? Watch this.

        • I can’t

          April 25, 2022 at 5:13 am

          “You don’t believe me watch this”

          Or you could get a few minutes of your time back

        • PeterH

          April 25, 2022 at 1:38 pm

          This video was edited from a late night talk show on Showtime called Desus & Mero. The hint for me was the fact the presenter was giggling throughout the gig.

          This was entirely “staged” as a gimmick and has absolutely no relationship to any corporate training session.

          Liars are so easy to detect. As I’ve advised Tom …..If you want to perfect your ‘alternative facts nonsense…. You’ll need professional training from Kelly Ann Conjob.

      • Tom

        April 24, 2022 at 9:54 pm

        Light your tiki torches with Lincoln, Rick Wilson and Joe Scarborough.
        Peter h the agent for Lincoln.
        Racist

      • Tom

        April 24, 2022 at 10:10 pm

        LMAO bout complaining to CNN.
        You are an idiot.

        • Former Floridian

          April 24, 2022 at 10:13 pm

          Like complaining to the foxes that the henhouse was raided.

    • Rob

      April 25, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      Where did you attend these trainings? I ask of you to be upfront and share please.

Comments are closed.


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